“Huh?” Shane muttered, looking up from the gold to blink at Trevor in surprise. “Very funny; I didn’t know it was gold when I wanted to make an anchor out of it.”
Trevor chuckled, and then pointed at the gold. “I’m serious. Let’s make an anchor out of it. We’ll put some tines and a cable on it, paint it, store it in the anchor locker, and lock it in place. I can’t think of a better way to hide it – for now anyway, until we figure out what to do with it.”
Shane blinked. “That’s actually bloody clever. I’m very glad I thought of it,” he said, before examining the lump of cast gold again. “I’ll still need to drill a hole for the line. We’ll need to catch and save the drill shavings; they’ll be worth a lot.”
Trevor nodded, and then angled his head, deep in thought. “Or… don’t drill it. It’s soft, so drive a nail through it to make a hole. That way, no shavings.”
“That’ll work,” Shane replied, already scavenging in a toolbox.
After half an hour of work, they stood back and admired their new, oddly shaped, freshly-painted anchor. Once it was dry, they carefully stowed it in the anchor locker and then locked the hatch.
Trevor had taken Kookaburra well offshore, remaining out of sight of land until it was time to return to Carnarvon.
Decked out in a new pair of shorts and a T, Trevor, chewed nervously at his lip as he guided Kookaburra on the approach to the Fascine Estuary.
Shane, who had also donned his newest shorts and T, stood by Trevor’s side. “It’ll be okay, Trev.”
Trevor glanced ahead at the town, before giving Shane a faint smile. “I hope so… this time I’m not worried as much, but I’m still pissed at having to give in. I just want us to be left alone instead of being hounded and hunted all the fucking time.”
As they motored past Ned’s boatyard, Trevor glanced at the docks where Atlantis was moored, and blinked. Her hulls were no longer red, they were tri-colored. The top third was brown, underlined by a two-foot wide hot-pink stripe running lengthwise down each hull on the outer sides. Only the bottom third was the original red. “Whoa, he said he’d disguise her, and he sure has.”
Ned hadn’t repainted Atlantis; he’d hauled her out of the water three days before, obscuring her from view. He’d then applied blue cellophane to create the brown, overlaying it with a length of pink upholstery vinyl, all secured in place with artfully applied electrical tape. From any distance greater than thirty feet, Atlantis appeared to be wearing a very different paint scheme. He’d refloated her, leaving her in plain view, the name ‘Phoenix’ emblazoned on her transom on a removable sheet of vinyl.
Trevor took a breath, glancing ahead toward the beach at the end of Robinson Street. He pressed the button on the helm console to sound Kookaburra’s air horn, sending a series of raucous blasts echoing across the Fascine and into Carnarvon. “So much for the low-key approach,” Trevor said, with a wry, nervous smile.
As they approached the beach, Trevor’s nerves received another blow, in the form of dozens of people showing up along the waterfront. A glance inland showed more coming, and Trevor swallowed once. Then, one person began to clap. The clapping spread, others taking it up, a steady, slow applause from people who had come to see the teen who had famously dared the Southern Ocean alone in a crippled hulk, and survived.
“I guess the word is out,” Trevor said, blinking in surprise. The warm welcome calmed him somewhat, and he began smiling and waving.
“You’re famous, mate. It’s not just the press that wants to see you,” Shane reminded him, with a big grin, joining in waving at the growing throngs. Fowler had spread the word that Trevor was coming in.
With a deft hand, Trevor ran Kookaburra onto the beach with aplomb, accompanied by one more blast of her horn.
Fowler darted out and scrambled aboard, giving Trevor a hearty handshake. “Well done.” He lowered his voice, and added, “I figured we might as well let the town in on this. We’re going to a reception on Robinson Street, and I’ve promised the reporter a few words with you, but the main interview will be handled by Jason Kline. Let the town welcome you, and don’t forget to mention the book – a lot.”
“Will do,” Trevor replied, glancing nervously ashore. “We’ll lock up and come ashore, but I’ll need to run a line to something solid and tie off, I don’t want Kookaburra drifting –”
“No worries, Trev. Just follow me. Craig’s here, he’ll take care of the boat. Just try to enjoy the day. There are tons of people who would like to meet you. If you let yourself, you’ll have a blast,” Fowler said.
Shane gave Trevor a pat on the back. “Good advice. Enjoy it, you’re famous.” Shane turned to Fowler and asked, “Should I stay aboard?”
Fowler shook his head. “No, come with me and Trev. Okay, here’s Craig to take care of the boat, so let’s go,” Fowler said, leading Trevor and Shane ashore.
Trevor found the next few hours vastly different from what he’d been expecting. He was welcomed by a quartet of local councilmen and he was asked to speak to the small crowd. Reluctantly, he did so, mainly a question-and-answer session. He was applauded loudly and often, causing him to relax and begin to smile.
Shane fell into an easy role of surrogate for Trevor; chatting with the councilmen and members of the audience while Trevor was occupied. Shane, who loved attention, found himself greatly enjoying his role.
Then came what Trevor dreaded; the conversation with the reporter. It took place on the beach next to Kookaburra, under the watchful eyes of Greg Fowler, Craig Grundig, and a glowering Jason Kline, who was doing his best to act like a reporter jealously guarding his turf. Fowler had told Trevor what to expect, and had coached him on how to answer.
The reporter had gone along with the controlled interview due to his alternative being no interview at all. He led off by asking the question that had been bandied about by the press since shortly after the Geraldton attacks. “Trevor, it’s known that a criminal from your home state of Florida, Bridget Bellevue, was involved in framing your father as well as the murder of his private investigator. She was also seen in Geraldton during the bombings, as was a boat matching the description of the one you’re on. What can you tell us about what happened?”
Trevor swallowed once, glanced at Fowler and, after receiving a nod of assurance, replied, “We don’t know all of it, and we were told to be careful of what we say because it’s still an active investigation, but I think I can say this; there was a professional hit man in Geraldton. He’s the one that sent the plane that crashed near Carnarvon as a diversion. The bombs were planted to make us run for the open sea, and it worked. The hit man had hidden himself aboard. I know this because he tried to kill me and Shane, but we got lucky and got him, then we turned him over to the police. We don’t know much else, and have been told by the police not to talk about it.” Trevor’s words came across to many of the people there, including the reporter, as somewhat stilted and coached – as they had been intended to be.
The reporter knew that this was major news. The connection was obvious, though this was the first official confirmation that Trevor had been in Geraldton and had been a target.
The reporter’s next question had been written by Fowler. “Trevor, seeing as how you’re on a very distinctive yacht, isn’t showing her off like this a bit dangerous, under the circumstances?”
Trevor chuckled, seeming almost relaxed. “Yeah, but it’s kind of a trick. Or it was, until the press started reporting on us when we were seen.” Trevor turned to look at Kookaburra, calling out to Shane who was standing ready in the cockpit, “Okay, show him!” Trevor waited while Shane, with a flourish, pulled off the ‘Red Roo’ name from the transom, revealing her real transom, proudly emblazoned with ‘Kookaburra’. “We messed with the name to keep from being traced, because there was a fear that I was still in danger. The Kookaburra is a charter boat, based here in Carnarvon, which the owners were kind enough to let me charter. I’ve been on her off and on for a while, plus on other boats, as well as time ashore. Part of the reason was to keep me safe, but also my press agent suggested doing this, because of the great book I’ve got coming out –”
“Ah, enough on that subject,” Fowler said, jumping in to interrupt Trevor as planned.
The reporter asked the question they’d hoped for. “Do you mean to say that this game of hide and seek was part of a publicity stunt?”
“No comment,” Fowler replied in an even tone, before adding hesitantly, “I’m sure the press agent will clear that up once Trevor is doing the talk show rounds in Sydney. He’ll be doing a lot of them.”
The reporter glanced at Kookaburra, so prominently beached and, though not convinced, suspected that this could indeed be part of a publicity operation, at least in part.
The reporter asked Trevor a series of questions regarding where he’d been and what his plans were, which Trevor answered to varying degrees of accuracy.
Jason Kline elbowed his way in, deploying a photographer and taking over the interview. “Trevor, good to see you again. So, aside from the attack in Geraldton, how have you been enjoying your stay?”
Trevor gave Kline an awkward smile. “It’s been great, and I’ve had plenty of time to work with Shane on my book. It’s all about my voyage here, with a lot of stuff about it that hasn’t been told yet.”
Kline pressed on. “Aside from that, what have you been doing?”
“Talking a lot with my press agent. I’m very excited; I’m going to be doing talk shows in Sydney. I’ve got a lot to talk about, especially about the book I’ve got coming out–”
“Yes, the book, you’ve mentioned it a few times already. What I’d like to hear is how you’re finding Australia, and what you’ve been doing?” Kline parried, displaying a trace of irritation.
“Well, working on the book, which will be really great. My press agent said I should talk to you about it. I’ve got several chapters done –”
“You’re certainly taking your press agent’s advice to heart, but enough about the book, please,” Kline said patiently, though letting just enough irritation show. As a print reporter, he had greater leeway than an on-camera interviewer would have. His act was primarily for the benefit of the other reporter, because Trevor’s press agent was none other than Jason Kline. He was getting a story, including what was known about Geraldton, and was arranging Trevor’s talk show and news appearances in Sydney and Melbourne.
To Trevor’s relief, Fowler called a halt, and told both Kline and the other reporter. “Trevor will be available later in the day, but we’re creating traffic issues being here. That’s it for now.” Only Kline knew that there would be no further interviews in Carnarvon.
In a display of apparent camaraderie, Kline told the other reporter, “If you’d like, I’ll show you around the one-mile pier. It’s a good spot for some background material and shots of Carnarvon.”
The reporter knew he had an exclusive on the Geraldton connection, and suspected that Kline’s offer was intended to delay him, to allow Kline the scoop. “Thanks mate, I’ll head out there as soon as I get back to my car.” The reporter’s intent was to file a fast piece from his motel room, and then meet with Kline for the background ‘fluff’ for a more detailed story after the hoped-for second interview with Trevor.
With as much flourish and showmanship as he could muster, Trevor backed Kookaburra off the beach at full throttle, pirouetting her twice before motoring down the Fascine at full power, heading for Kookaburra’s berth in the marina where he tied her up, pausing occasionally to wave at a few spectators.
Fowler drove his car to the marina, where Trevor, making no effort at concealment, strolled out to it, stopping twice to wave at a few curious lingering spectators. As soon as he had hopped in, Fowler slowly pulled away, and Trevor asked, “Did it go okay?”
Fowler nodded, and as he slowly drove downtown, he replied, “I think so. Just keep waving when you see people, and be really open. I’ve let the bank know you’re coming, so you can go in the back to the branch manager’s office. They’ll bring the box to you once you give them the key.”
Trevor fished his safe deposit box key out of his pocket. “It seems like only yesterday you were taking me to get the box.”
Fowler chuckled. “That it does, Trev. Okay, here we are,” Fowler said, pulling in behind the bank so Trevor could jump out, right next to the open back door.
Once in the manager’s office, Trevor handed over his key, and then asked the manager, “Could I exchange some euros for Australian cash?” The euros, which had come from his Greek charter, were what he planned to pay the deductible on Ned’s bill with. He wanted to keep his American cash for the voyage home.
In a departure from normal procedure, the manager handled retrieving the box for Trevor, and then exchanging the thick bundle of euros that Trevor handed him, thus allowing Trevor to remain out of sight in the office. When their business was concluded, Trevor, his pockets bulging, thanked the manager and returned to Fowler’s car for the ride back to the marina. When they arrived, Fowler walked Trevor back to Kookaburra, giving friendly nods to a few townspeople who were still lingering. Once aboard, he said quietly, “Okay, about half an hour. Wait until you hear my horn.”
Trevor and Shane stashed the money in their cabin, and then made their way on deck, where they lounged prominently in the sun, though Trevor was feeling tense.
“Doff your shirt,” Shane whispered, peeling off his own and tossing it into the cockpit.
Trevor followed suit, tossing his own shirt in after Shane’s. “Uh, why?” he whispered.
“Because it’s a bloody hot day, you senseless Yank,” Shane quietly replied, with a snicker. “Plus it makes us look relaxed, and I like the view,” Shane added, waggling his eyebrows.
Trevor chuckled, leaning back against Kookaburra’s superstructure. “Okay, we’ve got about twenty minutes left to look relaxed and bored.”
Fowler, at Ned’s yard, checked the towline again. He glanced at his watch when he felt his phone vibrate, and then glanced at the phone display, seeing the expected text from Kline. He dashed for the dock, released the last of the mooring lines, and then raced for the cockpit, where he started the customs boat’s engines. He gave a quick blast of the air horn and advanced the throttle, gently motoring out and taking up the slack of the towline. With great care, taking his time, he eased into the channel, inching Atlantis out of Ned’s yard, under tow.
Upon hearing the distant horn, Trevor and Shane, moving at a relaxed pace, retrieved their mooring lines and motored Kookaburra sedately out of the marina and into the Fascine, turning left for the channel to the open sea, which placed them well ahead of Fowler, who was following at a slower pace.
As Trevor made the turn, he gave several blasts of Kookaburra’s air horn while he and Shane waved to the people they noticed on the shore. Trevor sounded the horn again, making Kookaburra’s departure very prominent – exactly as planned.
Once clear of the channel, Trevor took Kookaburra north, close inshore, soon giving the tourists on Carnarvon’s historic pier a grand view. He blew his horn and waved as he sailed past, continuing north.
On the pier, Jason Kline was giving the other reporter a quick tour, only to pause, glare out to seaward, and yell, “For fuck’s sake, he’s leaving! We were supposed to have another interview.”
The other reporter watched Kookaburra sail by, spotting a shirtless Trevor and Shane in the cockpit. To add insult to injury, they waved as they passed the end of the pier. “So much for that, but at least I’ve got my story filed,” he chortled, glad that he’d now be able to leave Carnarvon.
Kline, still glaring at Kookaburra, set the hook. “I wonder where he’s off to now. That boat he’s on isn’t exactly inconspicuous – now we know what she looks like.”
The orange customs boat, with Atlantis in tow, came into view, also heading north. Kline waited for the other reporter to notice, and said, “Interesting, and I don’t believe in coincidences. Same general type of yacht, but a different color scheme. I think they’re still playing games.”
“What’s your best guess; is there a real safety risk, or is this all part of some publicity stunt?”
Kline shrugged, and then snorted. “I’d have said the former, but did you get the way he kept wanting to talk about his book? I think he’s trying to cash in – probably talked into it by a conniving agent,” Kline pondered, smiling to himself due to the fact that he was now Trevor’s press agent. “I’ll bet we’ll be seeing plenty more of him.”
The other reporter snapped a couple of pictures of Atlantis, though Fowler had been careful to keep her far enough offshore to conceal the fact that her color scheme was a fake. He watched until the three boats were out of sight, and then made his way back to his room, by way of the bar.
Once out of sight of land, Ned emerged from Atlantis’s salon, and with a wave at Fowler, released the tow line.
Turning in tandem, the two boats turned towards the mouth of the narrow pass between Bernier and Dorre islands, thirty miles away, where Kookaburra would soon be waiting.
Kookaburra, sails flying, approached the rendezvous point, the place where Trevor had first entered Shark Bay on Atlantis, which to him seemed so long ago. It was also the scene of his first interview with Jason Kline. For a moment, he reflected on how much his life had changed since his arrival, and with a look at Shane, Trevor smiled.
In the sheltered cove near the eastern end of the pass between Bernier and Dorre islands, Trevor anchored Kookaburra, already eagerly scanning the eastern horizon. “I can’t wait to have her back,” he told Shane, his voice aflutter with anticipation.
“I can tell,” Shane replied, chuckling as he put his arm across Trevor’s bare shoulders. “Things are really looking up. I think the press conference went well, plus everybody’s best guess is the threat is gone, so yeah, it’s going to be an awesome day.”
While Trevor and Shane waited at the mouth of the pass, someone else was waiting on the far side of the continent, and he wasn’t pleased.
“What the bloody hell do you mean, it’s against policy? I need your okay, and I need it yesterday,” Kent Moorcroft roared at his newspaper’s managing editor.
“Laws were broken,” the editor pointed out, and then sighed. “You encouraged a postal clerk to break the law. More than that, you paid him to do it. I can’t give you clearance for this story as written.”
Moorcroft, who had just returned from Coral Bay and was suffering from a touch of jetlag, scowled. “Now hold up. I didn’t break the law. I didn’t ask the postal clerk to make those extra copies. My only deal with him was for the package pickup info. He made the extra copy of the asset list on his own initiative.”
“Which you then paid him for,” the editor pointed out.
“I did nothing illegal,” Moorcroft said.
“You paid for illegally-obtained copies. The clerk violated postal regulations doing what he did for you.”
“Not my bloody problem, or yours. Most of what I did was on the up and up; the photos I took were totally my own doing, and I did identify myself to Carlson not long after.”
The editor glanced at the photos on his screen. “I see no problem with these, though this one,” he said, tapping at a shot that showed Trevor with the safe deposit box keys, “is a bit out of place, and makes us look like a tabloid. I don’t see why you need it for your story.”
The newspaper had already published a brief piece by Moorcroft, about Trevor being in Coral Bay, which included a few pictures of Trevor, Shane, and Kookaburra. In that piece, Moorcroft had mentioned Trevor’s visit to the post office, and alluded there was more to come, including a link to the Geraldton bombings.
Moorcroft snarled from exasperation, struggling to keep his voice level, mindful that the man before him was his boss. “I’ve already told you; the asset list is hard proof that the Geraldton bombings were linked to Trevor Carlson. Bridget Bellevue, a wanted killer from Trevor’s home state, was seen there. And now what does Trevor turn out to have in his possession? Bridget Bellevue’s asset list, and he was sending it, along with those keys, to Florida. Couple that with the fact his boat was seen in Geraldton that day, and it’s hard proof that he was involved – likely as the target. That’s proof of a connection and it’s something no other paper has, but I can’t make that connection without the bloody asset list.”
The editor folded his fingers together, as he often did when thinking. “If you run that list, you’ll get the clerk fired. We aren’t supposed to burn sources, ever. It’s bad for business, which is why it’s against policy.”
“So that’s your real objection,” Moorcroft said, thinking that he scented victory. “Okay, how about this; I do a rewrite. I’ll just include a few excerpts from the list, and say I saw it in the boat’s cockpit after I learnt Trevor was in Coral Bay and went looking for him. Going into the cockpit would be like going to someone’s front door and ringing the bell; it’s not trespassing. Also, saying it this way implies that I saw it before the clerk had it, which protects him. It’s a lie, but a lie to protect a source. We can’t pass this up; what we’ve got here is an exclusive on a major story.”
The editor leaned back, remaining silent for a few long moments, mainly to make Moorcroft sweat a bit. He didn’t like being yelled at in his own office. With his point made, the editor gave Moorcroft a faint, humorless smile. “I know you’ve just come from the airport, but you really ought to check the news. Trevor Carlson just gave an interview in Carnarvon and admitted that he was in Geraldton, and further mentioned that he’d captured the killer that got aboard. There’s no exclusive to be had here now; it’s all over the wires. Therefore, I’m nixing the asset list for now due to the way it was obtained, and the threat it poses to the source.”
Moorcroft’s face colored. “It would have been an exclusive if you hadn’t spiked its inclusion in my story from Coral Bay,” he said, managing to control his temper, and then added evenly, “I’m still chasing leads regarding that asset list. I may have more soon.”
The editor nodded. “If you dig up something that makes the list relevant, run it by me. The passage of time helps protect the source, providing you obfuscate his role as you suggested.”
“I think I may have something for you in a while – something big,” Moorcroft replied. He was already planning on following up that angle. “Cut the asset list stuff from my piece. Even without it, it’s a good teaser to keep people interested, plus it has exclusive pictures. The only thing is, you’ll need to pull that picture of the keys because, if I’m right, it’ll be better to run that later.”
Moorcroft, sensing an opportunity, smiled. “It’ll be worth it. The asset list and keys were sent to Trevor’s father, who was on the run until recently with his lawyer. I’ve learnt that the lawyer is filing lawsuits against the Bellevue estate, so that asset list and keys become quite interesting, especially in light of something else I’ve learnt; Trevor’s original boat, Atlantis, was purchased from the Bellevue estate. Now he’s turned up with an asset list and keys. It’s not much of a stretch to think that he found them aboard, and that might very well explain why Bridget Bellevue has been after him, including the Suez bombing and the pirate attack. I’ll need to hire a pair of feet on the ground in Florida to check a few things, but I think I can put it together.”
The editor blinked. “If you do, it’ll run under your byline as our headline piece.”
And with those fateful words, the meeting came to an end.
Fowler, in the customs boat, had arrived first, moored alongside Kookaburra, and was happily chatting with Shane and a distracted Trevor, who kept glancing to the east at the still-distant Atlantis, as she drew closer.
Trevor smiled as Atlantis glided towards him through the azure waters with stately grace, shining in the sun. Ned brought her smartly alongside and, with his heart pounding, Trevor helped moor her to Kookaburra.
Ned, with a proud sweep of his arm, gestured to Atlantis. “She’s ready to go, and better than she ever was. Come on aboard – by yourself – and we’ll take a look and attend to some details, then we’ll take her for a final shakedown.
Trevor appeared to ignore the slight to Shane and, after giving him a quick wink, leapt aboard like a shot, dashing inside at full speed; it was his first look at Atlantis since her rebuild had been completed. He darted into the cabins, the heads, and then the galley, where Ned caught up to him. “Whoa, slow down, you’ll wear out the deck,” he said, with a proud smile. Ned then glanced toward the salon, and added in a very quiet tone, “Before anyone else comes aboard, let’s check out the crew cabin. I want to show you what I did regarding your secret compartment.”
Trevor dutifully followed Ned to the forward port deck, and then down the access hatch. Like the other cabins, the crew cabin was fully appointed; everything was ready and in place. The bed even had sheets and blankets on it, neatly made.
Ned entered the head, gesturing at the countertop. “It’s still stainless steel, so your trick of a magnetic mount for the soap holder still works.” Ned took the soap dish in hand, pointing at the heavy magnet that formed its base. “I used your old one and just made a new dish from stainless, to match. Also, I routered in a slight recess in the countertop to make a place for it. That makes for a neater job and gives it a ‘designed’ look. As for your secret compartment, it works like before; just place the magnet between the same rivets you always used, and it’ll release the mechanism.”
Trevor did so, and was rewarded by a soft click. Ned smiled. “Open it up.”
Trevor pulled up the deck plating, and grinned. “It opens a bit smoother.”
“Aye, I rebuilt your mechanism. Your uncle and Craig found the compartment by messing about with the magnet – dragging it about. So, I put in a second magnetic arm; if the magnet is just dragged around, that arm pulls up and locks the mechanism to keep it from opening. You can only open this now by placing the magnet in the right spot from above. I doubt they’d have been able to find it.”
“Awesome, thanks,” Trevor said, with a broad grin.
Ned gave Trevor a serious look. “Who you tell of this is up to you, but bear in mind that the more people who know a secret, the less chance it’s kept.”
Trevor didn’t want to argue about Shane, so he just nodded in acknowledgment, and then added, “She’s looking great, Ned. I can’t wait to see how she handles.”
Ned chuckled. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I’ll wager. She’s lighter now than she was, and probably better balanced regarding her center of gravity. Okay, let’s get our passengers aboard and take her out. The conditions should be ideal for a speed run.”
They returned to the cockpit, where Trevor waved Shane and Fowler aboard. “Let’s cast off,” he shouted, his pulse racing.
Shane helped with the lines, and Trevor resumed his long-absent place at Atlantis’s port helm, motoring clear of Kookaburra and the customs launch with engines at low throttle.
Fowler caught Shane’s eye and, with a subtle nod of his head, indicated that he should follow him to the salon.
As soon as they were inside, Fowler smiled. “I’ve got a bit of good news for you; I managed to get ahold of a copy of your birth certificate,” he said, handing Shane a clipboard. “Those are the application forms for your passport. Fill ‘em out and I’ll send them in for you. I’ve already filled in the addresses, including the delivery address; the customs office in Cairns. I’ve made the arrangements; they’ll give you your passport when they give Trevor back his revolver, right as you sail. This should save you a lot of trouble.”
Shane gave Fowler a warm smile. “Thanks! This is great; I was figuring we’d have to do some of this there, then hang about waiting.”
Fowler chuckled. “Actually, I’d forgotten you still needed your passport, but Ned reminded me and suggested I help.”
“Ned?” Shane asked, his eyes opening wide in shock. “Ned wanted to help me?” Fowler gave Shane a noncommittal shrug, and Shane began to grin. “Oh, I get it; he wants to help me leave. He doesn’t know that me and Trev are coming back for Christmas, does he?”
“Don’t tell him, let him be happy for a bit,” Fowler replied, rolling his eyes at the situation between Ned and Shane.
“I’ll just surprise him when we get back,” Shane replied, with a wicked grin, thinking instead of a far more immediate surprise that he and Trevor had planned for Ned.
Ned took a seat beside the helm, smiling at the rapt look on Trevor’s face. “Open her up and see what she’ll do.”
Trevor didn’t need to be asked twice, so he began easing the throttles forward, accelerating to ten knots. “Where to?” he asked.
“Take her south along Dorre Island’s east shore. The sea breeze is kicking up from the west and coming right over the island, so if we go aways south, and about a kilometer offshore, you should find great conditions for a speed run. I’ve taken boats out here quite a few times, great spot for it.”
Trevor turned the wheel, feeling Atlantis smoothly respond, bringing her onto a southerly course. “She handles like glass, really smooth,” he said, grinning from ear to ear as he further advanced the throttles. Atlantis smoothly accelerated, prompting Trevor to glance at the knot meter. “Fourteen knots and she’s not at max.”
“She’s wearing top of the line folding props, she’s got new saildrives to handle her horsepower better than your old ones, and the engines have been completely rebuilt and tuned,” Ned replied, smiling with pride.
Trevor eased the throttles forward, gradually approaching the stops, though he kept a careful eye on the engine gauges. “Fifteen!” he called out, still short of full power. He pushed the throttles forward to the stops as Atlantis gradually gained speed. “Sixteen!” he said, steering her slightly to take the best angle on the light chop. “She’s never been this fast.”
Atlantis churned through the waters of Shark Bay at sixteen and a half knots, tearing south. Ned glanced at the gauges and chuckled. “I’ve never seen a sailing yacht capable of this kind of speed under engines. While I was doing the refit, I did notice that she’d been given heavier saildrives and a more powerful engine kit, which doesn’t make sense for a sailing yacht, though it does for a smuggler’s boat, as she apparently was.”
Trevor paralleled the shoreline for ten minutes, eyeing the terrain of the island and the wind conditions. “Let’s raise sail,” he said, cutting the throttles and reaching for the mainsail winch, which shone in glittering polished chrome. First the mainsail, then the foresail, rose into the crystal blue skies as Atlantis caught the wind, surging ahead with the wind off her starboard beam as Trevor deployed the daggerboards.
With a skyward glance, Trevor studied the new sails, which were light blue in color. His eyes sought the masthead, which towered nearly eighty feet above the water, and he grinned. “Not only will the LED running lights reduce the base load, but that’ll mean a lot fewer trips up the mast to replace bulbs.”
“Speaking of base loads… you still had your solar panels, but I replaced them – they were a bit degraded with age. So, you’ve got an all-new electrical system, every bit of it. The new navigation system uses flat screen displays, so uses less power, and no more messing about with map cartridges; this one loads via CD. You’ve a full set; you’re good to go, all the way home,” Ned said, while demonstrating the navigation system to Trevor. He then showed Trevor how to use the mast-mounted radar, as well as the pole-mounted set aft, which doubled as weather radar. “All the manuals are in the navigation desk, though most of the gear is very similar to what you’re used to.”
The conditions were near perfect; with the wind coming over the island at a steady twenty-three knots, the seas had only a light chop with no base swell. Like most catamarans, Atlantis was fastest on a broad reach, and with practiced skill, Trevor adjusted her course as he gradually cranked in her main sheet, trimming her for speed. “Twenty-one knots,” he called out, with a whoop of utter joy.
Under Trevor’s skilled command, Atlantis surged ahead, gradually accelerating. Trevor raised the starboard daggerboard. “Wow, twenty-three knots! I’ve never had her this fast,” he gushed, reaching for the mainsheet to ease it off as her starboard hull began to rise.
“See what she’ll really do – you know you want to. Ever done it before?” Ned asked.
Trevor gave Ned a bashful grin. “Just once, off Ft. Pierce with an offshore wind. I think I got the hull clear, but her bow started to dig so I eased off. I hit twenty-two knots.”
Ned gave the helm console a pat. “The Lagoon 57 bows are better; they’ve got a better profile, and slightly better angle of attack. I don’t think they’ll dig, but there’s one way to find out.”
Trevor, grinning like mad, began adjusting the sails.
Shane, who had been half listening, snapped his head around. “You’re not bloody serious?”
Ned glared at Shane for a moment before replying in an icy tone, “She’s wearing 57 bows now, but she’s got the stronger hull of a 55. She’ll do it fine, there’s no doubt in my mind. I’m so sure that if there’s any problems, I’ll fix her at my cost.”
“Bloody hell,” Shane muttered, his eyes wide.
Fowler, who was the least conversant in sailing lingo, gave Shane a puzzled look. “What are you lot talking about?”
Shane turned to look at Fowler, and arched an eyebrow. “You know those little Hobie Cats we sometimes see off Carnarvon? You’ve seen ‘em when they’re really batting along like mad, right?”
Fowler nodded. “The sailor leans out and they put ‘em up on one hull…” Fowler’s voice trailed off, his eyes opening very wide. “You can’t do that with a big yacht!”
Trevor’s grin was almost maniacal. “All crew, secure to handholds. We’re about to become a monohull,” he shouted, as he adjusted course by half a degree, tightening the mainsheet, causing Atlantis to pull every ounce of thrust from the wind as she raced south at a breakneck pace. “Twenty-four knots!” Trevor whooped, as the deck began to cant to port, the starboard hull inching its way higher in the churning waters.
Trevor tensed at the helm, his attention fixed on his boat, feeling her react to even the slightest turn of the wheel. He took a deep breath, and then, with a firm and steady hand, eased the wheel to port, the slight change of course increasing the force on the sails.
With stately grace that belied the massive forces at play, the starboard hull rose from the waters of Shark Bay, the keel clearing the water as the big yacht tore south.
Trevor, intent on his task, used tiny adjustments of the wheel to halt the rise with the starboard keel just clearing the water’s surface. Any further list would reduce the force of wind on the sails. Now, Atlantis, with just one hull in the water, reacted to the decreased drag, surging ever faster through the water. “Flying a hull!” Trevor whooped, sparing a fleeting glance at the knot meter. “Twenty-five knots! Holy fuck!” he shouted, with the wind in his hair, feeling the kiss of salt spray on his bare chest.
“I knew she’d be faster than ever,” Ned replied, grinning broadly, feeling great pride in his handiwork. Though he would never admit it, he loved taking a rebuilt boat out on sea trials more than any other part of his business, even being paid. To him, it was a sense of accomplishment – a show of his mastery of his craft.
Trevor kept a wary eye on the port bow, alert for any sign of it digging too deep. That was the greatest risk; if the bow dug in deep, the sudden resistance could cause Atlantis to come a violent halt, likely snapping her mast along with doing structural damage. This was why flying a hull in a big catamaran was a move generally filed under the heading of ‘insane’. After riding through a few slight swells, Trevor remarked, “No sign of digging in. These new bows are awesome!”
After three minutes of flying a hull, Trevor gradually steered to starboard, bringing the starboard hull down smoothly. “That was one hell of a ride,” he declared, beaming at Shane.
Shane, who had been hanging onto his seat, nodded, and placed his hand on his bare chest. “Still beating, so no heart attack this time, mate,” he said, and then wiped the sweat from his brow.
Trevor reduced speed to fifteen knots and then executed a downwind jibe, coming about and reversing course.
For the next half hour, Fowler took the helm while Trevor and Ned – joined by Shane at Trevor’s insistence – toured Atlantis. This was the final checkout, so Ned had his clipboard in hand, checking off items on the list as each was tested and approved. Trevor, to his delight, found everything working, and even little details, such as glasses for the bar, already in place.
To Ned’s consternation, Shane handled the galley approval, looking in every drawer and cupboard, but everything they’d ordered was there. Shane turned his attention to the refrigerator, and examined it before opening it and looking inside. He glanced around the empty interior, feeling it to make sure it was cold, and then asked, “What about the oven and dishwasher? Should we give ‘em a run and make sure they work?”
“I already have, and they are under warranty, but go ahead, there’s detergent under the sink,” Ned replied.
“If you’ve already done it, no need,” Shane replied, breezing past Ned to check out the microwave, leaving Ned flabbergasted that Shane had passed up an opportunity to be difficult.
The final walkthrough continued, though Shane took his leave to fill out his passport forms, leaving Ned and Trevor to check out the remaining items and systems.
When they were finally done, Ned presented the walkthrough checklist to Trevor for a signature, which Trevor happily gave.
When they arrived at Kookaburra, Trevor and Shane made quick work of the moorings. The four guys boarded Kookaburra, and Ned stuck out his hand to Trevor. “She’s yours again, and it’s been good knowing you.”
“You did a magnificent job. When we first met, I didn’t believe you when you said Atlantis would be better than she’d ever been, but she is, in both looks and performance. She’s a dream, Ned. Thank you.”
Ned smiled, handing Trevor an invoice. “All that remains now is the deductible; your insurance has taken care of the rest – they’re holding back the final hundred thousand they owe me until you accept delivery today, which is part of what these forms are for. The insurance is also going to pay you directly for personal property and perishables, and from what I recall you wanted that deposited directly to your account, so you’ll need to check and see if they’ve done so – if the funds don’t show up within two weeks, give ‘em a ring. Now for settling up with me… I credited you some for picking up the supplies in Geraldton, plus the reduction I promised when you arrived, so the bill comes to five thousand four hundred and twenty seven dollars. Under the circumstances, you can pay me from Geraldton, though this is a cash price. Give it to Martin, and he’ll give it to me when he gets here.”
Trevor had been expecting this, but it still took all his willpower not to shudder at parting with so much money. “I’ll do it now; I’ve got it, be right back,” he said, heading for the cabin where he’d stashed his cash from the bank. There, he counted out the money, and then returned to present it to Ned. He waited while Ned counted it, and then said, in an offhand tone, “You really have done a wonderful job, and I know Shane and I will be very happy on Atlantis.”
Shane, as they’d planned, took his place at Trevor’s side, smiling as he took Trevor’s hand. “Atlantis is awesome, even better than Kookaburra. Thanks for doing such great work for us, Ned.”
Ned idly glanced at their joined hands. “Trevor, have a safe voyage home. I think you’d have done better to choose a more amenable mate – perhaps a nice ax murderer – but to each, his own.” Then, he smiled.
“You knew?” Trevor blurted, blinking in surprise.
“I’m not bloody daft,” Ned replied, with a roll of his eyes. “You two have been joined at the hip since you got here, both of you had your things in the same cabin, and you specified a single bed, not bunks, for the crew cabin on Atlantis. But mainly, it was how you two are around each other. I can’t say as I approve of such things – I don’t – but in this case I’m happy to make an exception, seeing as how it means Shane is leaving. So, I’ll wish you a safe voyage, Trevor,” Ned said, offering Trevor his hand. They shook, and Ned turned to board the customs boat. He paused at the rail, and turned to face Shane. “And I suppose, good riddance and a safe voyage for you as well, you disagreeable bastard,” Ned said, and then turned to board the customs boat.
Trevor glanced at Fowler, and asked, with a bemused smile, “Uncle Greg, did you know he knew about us?”
Fowler shook his head. “No, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Okay Trev, Shane, have a safe trip to Geraldton. I’ll be there when you arrive. What’s your course plan to Geraldton, and then after?”
“Shane doesn’t want to try sailing solo at night, so we’re going to overnight at the cove just inside South Passage, then head for West Wallabi to overnight tomorrow night, then on to Geraldton, arriving at midnight. From there, we’ll probably take Atlantis on a direct run for Melbourne, then on to Sydney, then Cairns. After that, we’ll wait for a weather window for the transpacific run, make a few stops, then through the Panama and home. We’ll be there in plenty of time for Lisa and Joel’s wedding. I’ll let you know if we change plans, if you think the phone is safe.”
“Just to be cautious, keep your plans to yourself. Jason Kline’s scheme in Sydney should take care of the press problem in the main, and we think the threat is over, but it can’t hurt to be cautious. As for letting me know where you’re heading… let’s do it the easy way. Just give me a local airport’s three-letter code instead of a place name, and shift the letters by one, so A becomes B.” After a few quick goodbyes, Fowler and Ned cast off, and as Trevor and Shane waved from the deck of Kookaburra, Fowler gunned the customs boat’s engines and headed for Carnarvon.
As the customs boat faded from sight, Trevor gave Shane a long, warm hug, glancing over Shane’s shoulder at the pass he’d come through on Atlantis when he’d arrived in Australia. “This is where so much started for me – and for us. I was rescued here, and now we’re leaving from here, with Atlantis.”
Shane held Trevor tight, feeling his warmth. “It was great seeing you at her helm. I know how much you’ve craved getting her back.” Shane pulled away, grinning and glancing at Atlantis. “Okay, I guess it’s time… Anchors aweigh, we’re bound for the nuthouse, otherwise known as Yankeeland!”
Aboard the customs boat, now half a mile away, Ned glanced back as Atlantis and Kookaburra got underway, heading south. “They didn’t put anything aboard. Looks like I owe you a bloody fiver, Greg,” Ned grumbled, reaching for his wallet. “I never thought Trevor would miss that kind of detail, not in a million years.”
Fowler laughed as he took the money from Ned. “I knew he’d be so excited that he wouldn’t think of it.”
“How long do you think it’ll be until he notices?” Ned asked.
Fowler paused to think, and then replied, “It’s a few hours’ run to where they’re overnighting, so I’m guessing… half an hour, and he’ll be in search of a snack. Teenagers are always hungry.”
Trevor’s insurance had handled the refit of Atlantis, though they had compensated Trevor via a check for personal items – such as his surfboards and clothes – as well as perishables, such as food. Aboard Atlantis, the cupboards and refrigerators were empty, the only food aboard was in the emergency rations for the boat and also in the life raft. Trevor would not touch those under the circumstances, so Ned and Fowler had made a bet as to whether he’d think of food before setting out.
“Eating is one thing Trevor won’t be doing for a bit,” Ned replied, rolling his eyes and chuckling.
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